C.I.A. Vault 7 Leaks Trial Ends in Hung Jury, But What of Julian Assange?

C.I.A. Vault 7 Leaks Trial Ends in Hung Jury, But What of Julian Assange?

March 10, 2020 – The case of US vs. Joshua Adam Schulte, the CIA Vault 7 leaks trial Patriots’ Soapbox has been following closely, has resulted in a hung jury. While the Government focused on Schulte’s alleged workplace issues and his behavior in prison, the defense pointed out the weakness of their central forensic case.

The most serious of the charges against Schulte were centered on gathering and transmitting national defense information, essentially Spying intending to do harm to the nation, but the Government pressed their case dissecting Schulte’s alleged workplace issues and his behavior in prison.  On its face, the contrast is ludicrous.

Inner City Press has been covering the case and doing essential reporting and filing requests for documents.

Reportedly there were problems with the jury. Apparently they were thinking for themselves and some had the audacity to do their own research, rather than let the CIA and U.S. government run this as a show trial. Juror number 4 allegedly had gone “rogue” and was reading on her own. Juror number 5 was dismissed for looking into the government lawyers and doing research. On her way out of the courthouse, when stopped by Inner City Press, she proclaimed “I don’t think he did it, what they accuse him of. Not the most serious charges. He is innocent, let the brother go!”

Even the New York Times had to admit the U.S. Government could not tie the leak to Schulte and that the forensic case was not very strong. In an article entitled “Trial of Programmer Accused in CIA Leak Ends in Hung Jury” Nicole Hong writes:

An office of the Central Intelligence Agency outside Washington turned into a crime scene on March 7, 2017.
WikiLeaks had just published a trove of confidential C.I.A. documents that revealed secret methods the spy agency used to penetrate the computer networks of foreign governments and terrorists.
Investigators scrambled to find the culprit, seizing more than 1,000 devices from the C.I.A. as top-secret operations and computer networks shut down. Eventually, they arrested Joshua Schulte, 31, who worked as a computer engineer for the agency.
But on Monday, in a muddled outcome for the government, a federal jury in Manhattan could not agree on whether to convict Mr. Schulte of the biggest theft of classified documents in C.I.A. history.
After hearing four weeks of testimony, the jurors deadlocked on eight counts, including illegal gathering and transmission of national defense information. They did convict Mr. Schulte on two other counts — contempt of court and making false statements to the F.B.I.

The motivation for the alleged theft, prosecutors said, was Mr. Schulte’s belief that C.I.A. management did not take his workplace complaints seriously. The partial verdict came after six days of chaotic deliberations. One juror was dismissed in the middle of the discussions because she violated the judge’s orders by researching the case, and the lawyers involved, on her own, and then shared that information with the jury. The judge declined to replace her with an alternate, leaving a panel of 11 people.

The jury also complained in a note about a separate juror who was not participating in the group discussion, raising concerns about ‘her attitude.’
The group of nine women and two men was ultimately unable to reach a unanimous verdict on the most serious charges in the case.
The verdict showed that the jury had doubts about the government’s most important evidence, which came from a C.I.A. server. Trial witnesses guided jurors through a complicated maze of forensic analysis that, according to prosecutors, showed Mr. Schulte’s work machine accessing an old backup file one evening in April 2016.
He did so, prosecutors said, by reinstating his administrator-level access that the C.I.A. had removed after his workplace disputes. The file matched the documents posted by WikiLeaks nearly a year later, according to the government.
The defense argued that the C.I.A. computer network had weak passwords and widely known security vulnerabilities, and that it was possible other C.I.A. employees or foreign adversaries had breached the system. – The New York Times
If you have been following my reporting on the case, you will notice that the Times article is omitting key details. They do not mention Michael, Schulte’s co-worker who was also a suspect, nor Amol the drug deaeor who Schulte said he believed was a security risk. The passwords on the Devlan system were mysweetsummer and 123ABCdef, not very secure.

You can get the transcript from the hearing here:

Of course, things are not over for Schulte. The next hearing in his case will be on March 26, 2020; he still has the “child porn” charges to be addressed in a separate hearing altogether.

More ominously, if Joshua Schulte did not steal the Vault  7 material, who did?


What happens to Julian Assange is the next question. A review of the cases shows that they are linked and that the U.S. Government is using some of the same arguments. In my opinion, a Schulte conviction rendered prior to the Assange extradition hearing judgment would have bolstered the Assange case. Perhaps the Schulte trial was practice for the big fish, Julian Assange. That is what RT argues in an article entitled “Assange Trial Rehearsal? Hung Jury Results in Mistrial for Former CIA Tech Accused of Handing Vault 7 Docs to Wikileaks”:

Federal prosecutors were unable to convince a jury on any of the spying-related charges against an ex-CIA engineer accused of stealing reams of classified material – in what may be a dry run for the case against Julian Assange.

In a significant blow to prosecutors on Monday, jurors failed to come to a verdict on eight central counts against former CIA software engineer Joshua Schulte, who was charged for stealing thousands of pages of classified information on the agency’s secret hacking tools and passing them to WikiLeaks – what later became its ‘Vault7’ release, the largest breach of classified material in CIA history.

The split verdict came after nearly a full week of messy deliberations, which saw one juror removed for researching the facts of the case against Crotty’s orders. She was never replaced, however, leaving a short-handed panel to deliver a final decision.

The former technician left his job in the CIA’s Langley headquarters in 2016 and was charged some two years later for his alleged role in the Vault 7 leak. But prosecutors had difficulty tying Schulte to the disclosure throughout his four-week trial, with jurors often mystified by a complicated maze of technical evidence.

The case may offer parallels to that of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange, who faces 17 charges under the World War I-era Espionage Act and up to 175 years in prison over his role in the publication of the Iraq and Afghan war logs in 2010. Assange is accused of helping leaker Chelsea Manning (then known as Bradley) ‘hack’ into military computers to obtain classified material, but if extradited from the UK to stand trial in an American courtroom, prosecutors would likely produce similar technical forensics to prove his involvement, precisely what the government was unable to do in Schulte’s case. 

Arguing that the CIA’s computer network had widely known vulnerabilities, including poor password protections, Schulte’s defense insisted prosecutors had failed to prove his role in the breach. They noted it was possible another actor gained access to his work station, pointing to another CIA employee identified only as ‘Michael’ as a potential culprit.

The CIA later placed the employee on administrative leave for refusing to cooperate with the investigation, which suggested the government had ‘doubt about the case against Mr. Schulte,’ defense attorney Sabrina Shroff said in her closing argument on Monday. – RT News

Indeed there are parallels in the cases.

This is an interesting point about one of the U.S. Governments main claims in the case against Julian Assange, the so-called Lamo chatlogs.

Of course, just like in the Joshua Schulte case, Julian Assange is not being allowed to have attorney-client privilege or the ability to confer properly with his attorneys.

It would appear that the Government wants to rig the game, so to speak, by omitting exculpatory evidence and selectively putting out things that make the defendant look bad. I see this as a pattern of misconduct at the Department of Justice that has been done to General Michael Flynn for example.

As in the Schulte case, there are allegations of psychological and physical torture in the Julian Assange case as well.

Finally, the Parliament of Catalonia calls it what it really is, part of a decade long, international lawfare campaign.

Oscar Grenfell, in an article entitled “In blow to US campaign against WikiLeaks, proceedings against alleged CIA whistleblower end in mistrial” outlines how the Schulte verdict could effect the Assange case:

The federal proceedings against Joshua Schulte, a former employee of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) who was accused by the American government of providing WikiLeaks with a trove of documents exposing illegal spying operations, have ended in a mistrial.

After a week of deliberations, the jury returned on Monday to state that it could not reach an agreement on the most serious charges facing Schulte. The divided opinion centred on eight counts under the Espionage Act, including illegally gathering and transmitting national defence information. The jury had only agreed to convict Schulte on the lesser counts of contempt of court and making false statements to the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Schulte will remain imprisoned and likely faces a retrial.

The failure of the prosecution to convict Schulte of the charges relating to WikiLeaks’ 2017 Vault 7 publication, which consisted of leaked documents from within the CIA, is significant. It may mark a hurdle in the campaign of the US government against WikiLeaks and its publisher Julian Assange, who faces extradition from Britain to the US and prosecution under Espionage Act charges over separate 2010 and 2011 releases. 

It is clear that if he is extradited, Assange could face additional US charges, possibly related to Vault 7. Three days after closing arguments in the Schulte trial, Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade officials confirmed that it was possible that Assange would face additional counts carrying the death penalty if he was dispatched to the US. The timing of their statements, which contradict the previous claims of US allies, could indicate that there is much at stake for Assange in the attempted US prosecution of Schulte.

The failure of the jury to convict, after a ‘national security’ trial in which all advantages were slated to the prosecutors, underscores the criminal character of the media blackout of the proceedings, which began in late January. For over a month, the most prominent corporate media outlets have remained silent on court hearings which revealed aspects of the politically-motivated witch-hunt of WikiLeaks and its alleged sources.

The publication of Vault 7 in early 2017 was the trigger for a major escalation in the US government vendetta against Assange, culminating in his illegal expulsion from Ecuador’s London embassy last year, his arrest by the British police and imprisonment in a maximum-security prison. Schulte’s trial, moreover, coincided with the first week of the British extradition hearing against Assange, which underscored the similarities in the lawless treatment of the WikiLeaks publisher and his alleged CIA source. – Oscar Grenfell

Indeed both case have implications for press freedoms, journalists and publishers around the world, and yet in both cases there is a near total mainstream media blackout.

Elle magazine gave it a little spotlight in a piece they did on Wikileaks lawyer Jennifer Robinson.

The article highlights the role of Jennifer Robinson in some very high profile human rights cases.

Robinson, 38, whose warm manner and tendency to laugh easily belie the fierceness that surfaces over the course of a long conversation, is notable in the UK as the lawyer for Julian Assange—she has appeared across the globe in numerous courthouse photos, striding beside the now world-famous founder of WikiLeaks. As Assange’s longest-serving attorney, she has spent close to a decade working to defend him from charges of conspiracy and keep him out of prison, achieving a bizarre slice of celebrity along the way. (Speaking of bizarre celebrity, Kellyanne Conway passes by three times, effectively echoing the threat of government surveillance.)

But Robinson isn’t at the General Assembly on WikiLeaks business. As she reminds the many who only want to hear about Assange, she has a lot of other clients. She’s working with Cherie Blair, the wife of former UK prime minister Tony Blair and a queen’s counsel, to defend Marsha Lazareva, a prominent businesswoman and American green-card holder who has been held in Kuwait on what her attorneys say are false charges of money laundering and embezzlement; Robinson has been involved with several presentations during the week to drum up support for the case. She’s meeting with Heard, whom she’s advising on a defamation suit from her ex-husband Johnny Depp, while Heard is in town speaking at a town hall on sexual abuse. Perhaps most important of all, Robinson is presenting on the case for the liberation of West Papua, a former Dutch colony that has been occupied by Indonesia for decades, the cause that has motivated her work in human rights law since she was a university student. – Elle Magazine

The picture from this article shows Julian Assange behind a glass cage. That the person who exposed war crimes is on trial, and not the actual war criminals is telling. That image should not be lost on publishers and journalists; it should be seared into their minds, with consideration of the idea that one day, it could be an editor from the New York Times or the London Times being confined in a glass cage in a kangaroo court.

Mary Kostakidis makes a good point. What has been done to Julian Assange has been deliberate and systematic. For almost a decade, he has been the subject of a horrific smear campaign, the likes of which has never been seen before on such a mass scale.

Regardless of whether or not you support Julian Assange, you should consider that the U.S. government is engaging in extra-judicial activities the world over. Due process is critical; if it is withheld from some of us, it can be withheld from all of us. If you do not speak out against it, you are signaling your tacit approval for these same kinds of measures to be used on you one day. I believe everyone deserves the right to a fair trial and basic human decency. This kind of abuse of power and political persecution must stop.

We will continue to follow and report on both cases, despite the censorship currently being leveled against us. Please check back for updates.

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Sandra Toussaint Bastille
Sandra Toussaint Bastille
6 months ago

Thank you for the detailed updates. Very Good information. This is a great Site! God Bless